Dishonored 2 is one of the year's biggest video game releases. And it lets you choose how you play.

Throats are slit, bodies are dismembered and limbs are sliced off and dragged out of sight, away from the eyes of prowling guards.

The trailers leading up to today's release of Dishonored 2 make it very obvious about what kind of game it is. It's a bloodthirsty one.

But there's another way to play Dishonored 2, the sequel to the award-winning 2012 original that's expected to be among many a best-of list at the end of the year. And that's by spilling no blood at all.

"You don't have to kill anyone," says Harvey Smith, Dishonored 2's co-creative director at Arkane Studios.


"It's one of those perverse things. We give you all these super cool powers and say, 'By the way, there's a mode where you don't have to use any of them'."

Read more: Dishonored 2 is shaping up to be a violent steampunk riot

In a year that's built up a body count unlike any other, from the devilish carnage of Doom to Battlefield 1's war-hungry mayhem, 'why bother' seems like a fair question.

Surely gamers these days just want maximum carnage?

Harvey calls the decision to include a non-lethal option "ethical". He believes gamers will have a better experience if they take their time and use stealth methods instead of the steel weaponry and supernatural powers they're supplied with.

"Hey, if you want to rush through the game and shoot and stab and have a blast doing that, that's totally viable and totally fun. On the other hand, if you want to sneak through it slowly ... you get to see more, you get to eavesdrop on conversations," he says.

Taking your time to explore Dishonored 2 is something Harvey encourages. In fact, many will want to play through it several times over to work their way through a staggering amount of options.

They start right at the beginning when players get to choose between playing as Emily Kaldwin - one of the few strong female leads in a triple-A title this year - or her bodyguard father Corvo Attano. They're attempting to reclaim the throne in the coastal city of Karnaca using steampunk weaponry and special supernatural powers.

Levels are meant to be explored and experienced from multiple angels. Everything has been designed to be examined, every stone can be overturned. In fact, even Harvey says he's astounded at the attention to detail included in the game.

One of the game's stand out levels is set in the Clockwork Mansion, a sprawling clifftop estate with walls and staircases that move around players utilising a series of levers, pulleys and wires. Not only are there various configurations of the house, but players can also find their way behind the walls to see how those manipulations work.

"You can get into places you're not supposed to get, up into the corners, behind the walls up high where you almost get crushed," says Harvey. "You'll see things like a rod come out of the wall and fall into place, rolling under a gear and the teeth match up to the gear and it's obviously the thing moving the floor.

"Sometimes I look at (something like that) and I'm just like, 'Guys, holy shit, did we actually have to design the house like that?' They take great pride in it. They went crazy."

But it's that detail that many love about the franchise. Harvey puts the original game's success, and the reason there's a sequel, down to those "overlapping circles".

"There are people that literally just play this game just for the Victorian settings. There are people who play because they want a strong female protagonist who has not just been presented for the male audience, but rather as an aspirational character for women. Then there are people who play just because they like the supernatural angle, because there aren't that many games that get as nerdy about being a sorcerer as we do.

"That's how we find an audience, by overlapping all these diverse groups."

But the big question remains: do you slice 'em and dice 'em, or crouch and sneak?

Harvey says Dishonored 2 is based around two distinct fantasies, and he encourages players to try out both of them.

"One is the fantasy of the guy who shows up and leaves the city burning at his back. They sprint from beginning to end (and) they shoot and stab their way through the game.

"The other fantasy is, 'I'm so good, I'm ghost like, you didn't even know I was there.' They sneak through the game, they overturn every stone, they read the names of the paintings.

"I think what we're doing here is trying to support both of those fantasies."

* Dishonored 2 is out now.